Newman Contemplates Being a New Man
Frank Capua (Paul Newman) is a rising star on the race track and behind his jovial manner is a driven man, hell bent on winning the Indianapolis 500. His devotion to racing causes him difficulties when it comes to his home life as his wife Elora (Joanne Woodward) and stepson Charley (Richard Thomas) feel ignored. It causes Elora to end up in the arms and bed of Frank's on track rival Luther "Lou" Erding (Robert Wagner) causing them to become estranged. The question is at the end of the day is winning the Indianapolis 500 more important than losing everything else?
Here is the honest truth, if "Winning" had been made with anyone else other than Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward it would have struggled. It would have struggled because in today's terms it is one big cliche which is incredibly predictable. Now I suppose I should say spoiler alert but "Winning" is so obvious it feels a bit of a waste of time but I had better say it. I say that because what we watch is racer Frank fall in love with Elora but jeopardize it all because of his desire to win and then realise that he has nothing after he has won making him question if it was all worth it and whether he can get his true love back. It is that simple and that obvious right from the word go.
But as I said Newman and Woodward make the movie because as a real life couple they bring some real life chemistry and sympathy to their roles. When they have some romance on the beach we invest in them because they are so natural around each other. And so when things start to get sticky for them we feel for them because of that real connection not because the actual character writing is that good. In fact you just need to look at the characters of Charley and Lou to understand how weakly written they are.
Beyond the appeal of Newman and Woodward "Winning" looks good, it features some nice cinematography especially when it comes to the racing action parts of the movie. But then you have some editing which at times gives it the feel of a movie probably a lot longer but slashed to bring it down to a more reasonable running time.
The knock on effect of all this is that after the set up which sees Frank and Elora marry you begin to drift because you already can guess how this will play out. Occasionally something will grab your attention, a rough edit or a moment of over acting but it struggles to really keep you focused because of the familiarity and in many ways the waste of acting talent.
What this all boils down to is that if you are fan of Newman and Woodward then "Winning" probably is more entertaining than for those who watch because of its car racing storyline as it is Newman and Woodward who make the movie. But beyond their contribution it is a case of a familiar story with very few surprises along the way to a predictable end.